LONDON — Arsenal center back Thomas Vermaelen scored in stoppage time in a 2-1 win over Newcastle on Monday, completing the team's fourth straight come-from-behind victory in the Premier League to close within a point of third place.
Vermaelen scored in the fifth and final minute of added time, tapping the ball in from close range to send the 60,000 crowd into a frenzy as the Gunners are now within touching distance of fierce rival Tottenham in the last automatic Champions League spot.
Arsenal was 10 points behind its fellow north London team only a few weeks ago, placing manager Arsene Wenger under increasing scrutiny and open criticism from fans.
Newcastle scored in the 14th minute after Vermaelen gave the ball away, leaving Hatem Ben Arfa free to run down the right and cut inside Kieran Gibbs. The French winger's curving left-footed strike beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny at the near post.
Arsenal had been dominating the match up until that point, and the hosts showed resilience to reply immediately from the restart.
Tomas Rosicky started the move and passed to Theo Walcott, who centered for Robin van Persie to take a touch on his left foot, turning Mike Williamson the wrong way, before blasting the ball past goalkeeper Tim Krul for his 26th league goal of the season.
Arsenal squandered chances earlier in the first half: Van Persie just missing converting a pinpoint cross from Walcott in the third minute, and coming close again when his powerful free kick went straight into Krul's arms in the 22nd.
Newcastle struggled to match Arsenal's tempo, but Yohan Cabaye's strong shot flashed just past the post toward the end of half.
The visitors appeared content going into halftime at 1-1 with Krul taking his time during goal kicks. Van Persie became enraged and the pair had a brief altercation — which flared again after Vermaelen's winner secured Arsenal's fifth straight league win.
Arsenal began the second half brightly, with Rosicky's header being stopped by Krul and Van Persie shooting straight at the 'keeper from close range.
Rosicky exchanged passes with Walcott while closing in on goal but he mis-hit his shot with the net gaping in the 67th.